Movie Reviews

Movies on liberty and the human condition.

Stand and Deliver (1988). The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout prone students to learn calculus. My review.

Door to Door (2002).  A man with cerebral palsy is determined to become a salesman. Starring William H. Macy.

Seabiscuit (2003). True story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse whose victories lifted not only the spirits of the team behind it but also those of their nation.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Amazing Grace (2007)

The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Boom Town (1940). A marvelous and fun ode to entrepreneurship starring Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy as two wildcatters that take wild risks hunting for oil in 1918 Texas.

Brazil (1985). Master filmmaker, and former Monty Python animator, Terry Gilliam borrows liberally from 1984 and Brave New World to make this visually stunning dystopian film.

Breaker Morant (1980)

Burnt By the Sun (1994)

The Castle (1997). A great, fun, Rothbardian film.

Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (2002)

Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb (1964)

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Enemy of the State (1998). A delightfully paranoid warning about the power of government in a technological age set in an action thriller format. Will Smith plays the lead, a man who finds himself hunted by government agents for no reason that he can fathom.

Europa, Europa (1990). This has to be seen to be believed. Based on the true story of a German Jewish boy (Solomon Perel) who at various times during WWII ended up in the Communist Youth League as well as the Hitler Youth(!). An intriguing on-the-ground perspective of our ideologically totalitarian age. In German & Russian with English subtitles.

Farewell My Concubine (1993). Much more overtly critical of Chinese Communists than “To Live”, this film covers the same time period but from the perspective of two male Peking opera stars.

The Godfather trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990). These are not just gangster films. As Michael Corleone says in the third film, “All my life I kept trying to go up in society. Where everything higher up was legal. But the higher I go, the crookeder it becomes. Where the hell does it end?” The Godfather movies are a recognition of the true nature of men in power. Lord Acton taught us that “Power corrupts”. In surveying mass murder by the state, Professor Rummel updated that to “Power kills”.

Harry’s War (1981)

Hate (1995). The international welfare culture.

The Inner Circle (1991).

JFK (1991). “Kings are killed. Politics is power, nothing more!” In this film on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, director Oliver Stone delivers a scorching critique of the war-making United States government.

The Killing Fields (1984). Educated in France with the best of socialist ideology, a group of Cambodian students decided that they understood what had gone wrong with previous socialist revolutions. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others had been too faint-hearted in advancing the revolution.

L’America (1994). Two Italians go to Albania to set up a development scam and make off with Italian government funds. Italian with English subtitles.

To Live (1994). Fugui and Jiazhen endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry. Addicted to gambling, Fugui loses everything. In the years that follow he is pressed into both the nationalist and communist armies, while Jiazhen is forced into menial work. They raise a family and survive, managing “to live” from the 40’s to the 70’s in this epic, but personal, story of life through an amazing period. The story of resilience of family in the face of political madness.

The Man in the White Suit (1951). An altruistic chemist invents a fabric that resists wear and stain as boon to humanity but both capital and labor realize it must be suppressed for economic reasons. Only a little imagination is required to see this movie as a critique of real world big government/big business/big union fascism.

The Man Who Would Be King (1975). Ironically based on a famous short story by Imperialist Rudyard Kipling, this film is a clever parable of Empire. Starring Sean Connery as Daniel Dravot, who begins to believe his own propaganda and see himself as a true benefactor. A more charming and enjoyable way to show the evil of empire is hard to imagine.

A Midnight Clear (1992).

Minority Report (2002). Starring Tom Cruise, based on a story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. The year is 2054, and the government has created a Department of Pre-Crime. The issues of predestination and free will are explored, and the justice and injustice of a system that punishes crimes that have not been committed. Brings to mind the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The Mouse That Roared (1959). Peter Sellers stars in 3 different roles in this light comedy about foreign aid, the Cold War and nuclear brinkmanship.

No Man’s Land (2001). Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1993 at the time of the heaviest fighting between the two warring sides. Two soldiers from opposing sides in the conflict, Nino and Ciki, become trapped in no man’s land, whilst a third soldier becomes a living booby trap. Winner of Best Screeplay at Cannes Film Festival in 2001.

Once Were Warriors (1995). A family descended from Maori warriors is bedeviled by a violent father and the societal problems of being treated as outcasts. It is ironic that the welfare system, sponsored by such sensitive, multi-cultural types, is destructive of any traditional culture it comes in contact with as is homogenizes individuals into dependents of the faceless state.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). This classic western directed by and starring Clint Eastwood features a scathing portrayal of the state at war.

Josey: Governments don’t live together. People live together. Governments don’t give you a fair word or a fair fight. I’ve come here to give you either one. Or get either one from you… I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another…

Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double-tongues.

The Promise (1995). Follows a romance split by the Berlin Wall from shortly after the Wall is put up to when the Wall comes down.

The Quiet American (2002). An older British reporter vies against a young American for the affections of a Vietnamese beauty. Graham Greene’s novel about the early days (1952) of American involvement in Vietnam is adapted to film. Contrasts a flawed portagonist named Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) and the “quiet American” Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who is idealistic about helping the Vietnamese. In one conversation, Pyle is speaking of bringing liberty to the Vietnamese and Fowler interrupts him: “‘Liberty’ is a very western word. How do you define it for the Vietnamese?” Pyle responds, “By giving people the freedom to choose.” Fowler’s years of experience in Vietnam speak, “OK, you give them the freedom to choose, they vote, and they elect Ho Chi Minh… Things are more complicated then they seem.”

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002). If only there were more films like this!

Serenity (2005). “Half of history is hiding the truth.”

Seven Days in May (1964). Kirk Douglas

Shenandoah (1965). This film starring Jimmy Stewart portrays a widower named Anderson at the time of the War between the States who refuses to join either side and just wants to be left alone. “Like all wars I suppose… The undertakers are winning it.”

Snow Falling on Cedars (1999).

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005).

Stalingrad (1993).

Star Wars (1977, 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, 2005). The ambitious Star Wars films tell of the rise, fall into evil & ultimate redemption of Anakin Skywalker through his son Luke. “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.” (Yoda) How many other movies can you think of that have such a clear presentation of the libertarian doctrine on the use of force?

Sunshine (1999). This film follows three generations of Hungarian Jews as they struggle through a 20th century filled with war and one bad government after another. Review.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004). A film seriously dealing with conscription.

Tailor of Panama (2001).

The Third Man (1949). “Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat. I talk about the suckers and the mugs. It’s the same thing. They have their five year plans, and so have I.”

Three Kings (1999). Since World War II ended, the United States has bombed about 25 different countries. Number 19 was Iraq. Three Kings follows several U.S. soldiers as they separate from their Gulf War units on a cynical quest of greed into the heart of Iraq. Initially vieweing the war as an overseas adventure, they are exposed to the deadly realities of combat.  They must make a choice between the treasure they sought and the Iraqi people that now feel compassion for. A great anti-war film. See this review.

Tucker: A Man and His Dream (1988).

Underground (1995).  “No war is a war until a brother kills his brother.” This absurdist, black satire follows three friends in Yugoslavia from the takeover by the National Socialists, through the Communist period under Tito and into the civil war which tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

V for Vendetta (2006). “People shouldn’t fear their governments. Governments should fear their people.”

Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997). This documentary covers the events of February 28-April 19, 1993 at Waco, Texas that resulted in a total of eighty-six deaths.

Wag the Dog (1997). Hilarious satire of Washington manipulation.

War Letters: American Experience (2002)

The White Rose (1983). True story of some German youth that revolt against Hitler by printing subversive leaflets and pay the ultimate price for their courage. Somewhat downplays the Christian faith that was actually central to their decisions. German with English subtitles.

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (1998). The destruction of the Cultural Revolution in China is portrayed through the corruption and debasement of a young girl sent off from the city to discover a worker’s life in a remote rural area. Devastating. Directed by Joan Chen, known to some through her pivotal role in “Twin Peaks” as well as The Last Emporer. In Mandarin with English Subtitles.

Joan Chen, on Twin Peaks

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